Remembering the lessons of history
Amid thousands of veterans and tourists walking solemnly past the black, polished walls of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. was a small group of visitors carrying a wreath, small flags and roses.
The group was composed of families and former soldiers, who were once citizens of the Republic of South Vietnam.
An elderly man with a beret offered his hand to passing veterans.
â??I came here to personally thank and honor the many Vietnam veterans who fought and died to preserve my former country,â? said a veteran South Vietnamese soldier, who once wore the rank of lieutenant. â??We bring our families here to show our love and support for the brave men and women who stood with us.â?
Two young women in their 20s wore traditional Vietnamese clothing and held large United States and Republic of South Vietnam flags while veterans and tourists snapped photo after photo. They stood next to the statues of three U.S. soldiers staring into the reflection of the Vietnam Memorial.
A Vietnam veteran asked to take a photo alongside the ladies.
â??Seeing these ladies here really brings my heart and mind back to those days,â? said an emotional veteran. â??We deserved better and so did that country.â?
In Afghanistan, my friend Chris Collver, is serving with the Corps of Engineers. He has had multiple tours and works to build, and in many cases rebuild, the infrastructure of that war torn nation.
His work is rarely covered by any of this nationâ??s media.
In between construction projects, Collver often finds the time to pass out soccer balls to local children or make friends with the local Afghan soldiers. He enjoys bringing smiles to children who rarely have something to smile about.
His Memorial Day message to friends back home was quite simple and sobering. With his message he included the photo of an allied Afghan soldier saluting a pair of boots with a rifle bayonet stuck in a platform between the boots, a helmet rested upon the rifle.
The salute spoke volumes and it showed a touching expression of honor among warriors. It was as if he was saluting all the men and women who had fallen fighting for freedom for his country.
The boots, helmet, dog tags and rifle are the iconic symbol of an American casualty of war.
â??We are still at warâ?¦ and Iâ??m praying we get through this Memorial Day with no losses,â? Collver requested of his friends back home.
One day later, he provided a positive update.
â??As far as I know, we it made through Memorial Day with no casualties. I really enjoyed everyone back in the U.S. posting their wonderful Memorial Day activities. We fly the flag here at half staff on Memorial Day until noon to honor the fallen. We raise it to full staff in celebration and pride for the freedom we enjoy that our men and women so dearly paid for at its conclusion,â? said Collver.
During three separate Memorial Day ceremonies and Rolling Thunder I stood alongside patriots, veterans, current service personnel and disabled veterans wounded in wars spanning from World War II to the current conflicts across the globe.
We honored all who sacrificed their lives in service to our nation, but in the aftermath of these ceremonies I often thought of the aftermath of war.
Within the greater family of the military, every sacrifice is honored—but among our nationâ??s politicians and general public I often wonder whether the level of sacrifice really resonates.
So many families are left wondering whether the precious lives sacrificed in war are truly honored after that conflict ends. I also thought about the nations and people we eventually leave behind to fight their own conflicts once the tide of politics change and Americans grow weary of war.
The recent reports on the Veterans Administrationâ??s healthcare system are disgusting to anyone who has worn the uniform of this nation and hopefully everyone else. We should not tolerate this mismanaged and bloated bureaucracy.
No veteran should be given substandard care.
All Americans need to demand reform and the highest possible level of care for our veterans.
In the aftermath of war, so much should be considered before entering another one.
Historyâ??s lessons should be remembered.